Monday, March 10, 2014

Pee Mak and Karaoke Girl in San Francisco's CAAMFest

Thailand's all-time top-grossing film Pee Mak will make its U.S. premiere in San Francisco at CAAMFest 2014, along with another Thai film, the documentary-drama Karaoke Girl.

Put on by the Center for Asian American Media, CAAMFest might still be better known by its less-succinct moniker, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), which it dropped last year.

Here's the synopsis for Pee Mak:

Shutter co-director Banjong Pisanthanakun’s No. 1 Thai box office hit, Pee Mak, is a hilarious send-up of horror movie conventions that owes as much to Scary Movie 3 as it does to Thailand’s favorite lovelorn ghost, Mae Nak. Every Thai child knows the tale: wounded country boy Mak returns home to his village after the war – this time around with his four best buddies in tow – to reunite with his love and their son, only something is not quite right.

While Mak gets mushy with his devoted bride (Thai/Belgian model Davika Hoorne), the four friends set up in a neighboring house that has conveniently been abandoned by frightened villagers – everyone seems to believe Mak’s wife is a ghost, and not without good reason. Between all the stringy long black hair, outrageous physical gags and genuine scares, you might gloss over the film’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it barrage of on-point cultural references and its luxe cinematography. Try to keep your eyes open: Pee Mak is a rare treat – certified art and certified pop.

And the synopsis for Karaoke Girl:

Sa Sittijun sings in the karaoke clubs of Thailand, opening the film with a teary ballad. Born to hard-scrabbling farmer parents in rural Thailand, Sa is devalued from the moment of her birth, living on the downside of gender and class social hierarchies.

In this inviting film that’s part-documentary, part-fictionalized account of her story, we follow Sa as she makes her way to Bangkok to find work. Poverty and desire tangle to create intractable situations that leave her suffering – from breaking eggs in a cake factory to throwing herself in the arms of strangers trying to find love. Yet, there is a charming hope for Sa to emerge from this hidden life as a survivor and heroine.

“Only your tonight, not your forever … How does a karaoke girl find love?” A touching question, sure to stir compassion.

Director Visra Vichit-Vadakan will be in attendance at CAAMFest. Her film will be preceded by a short, the similarly themed Amazing Grace by U.S. filmmakers Faye Viviana and Haley Sims.

Other entries include Cambodia's first Foreign Language Film nominee The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh, the documentary Cambodian Son, Singapore's Ilo Ilo, the Indonesian experimental short A Lady Caddy Who Never Saw A Hole In One, the Filipino-French gay romantic documentary Jazz In Love, the Filipino documentary short My Revolutionary Mother and animation from the Philippines in Milkyboy. Vietnam chips in with Ham Tran's latest, the comedy How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, along with the short documentary Employed Identity and the award-winning short Burn to Send.

CAAMFest 2014 runs from March 13 to 23 at various venues in the Bay Area.

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